Madam Speaker, I have the privilege to share my time today with my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington.
I cannot begin this speech without first acknowledging that the House of Commons is situated on the traditional territory of the Algonquin nation.
The oath of citizenship is very important to me as an immigrant to this country. The day that I was able to recite it in front of the citizenship judge was the day that I truly arrived in this country. It is a moment in time I will never forget. It was 1987, and I was an engineering student at the University of Calgary. For many years, both before and after I arrived here from India, Canada represented two things for me and the dreams that I had for my future: equality for all and opportunity for all.
Even without a firm grasp of English and with very little financial resources, I knew that if I worked hard and embraced everything my new country had to offer me, I would succeed. Therefore, in the weeks leading up to my citizenship ceremony, I recited the oath tirelessly. I worked on absorbing every word to memory. I practised my pronunciation with diligence, so that I could show the respect I held for such a monumental point in my life. Most importantly, I took the time to put into context what it meant to commit to fulfilling my duties as a Canadian citizen.
I read as much as I could to educate myself about the history of Canada. I also read the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, so that I could fully appreciate the values that united citizens of all backgrounds together. Most importantly, I spoke to people. I found out what it meant to be Canadian through the voices of friends and colleagues that I had met over the years.
I am sharing my own personal experience, because, ultimately, the entire process behind our oath of citizenship boils down to values. These are the tenets that we, as Canadians, want to share with those seeking citizenship. They are also fundamental pillars helping new Canadians embark on their new lives here in Canada. This is why Bill C-8 is so critically important. It is about reaffirming a reconciliation framework that shows respect and deference to the aboriginal and treaty rights of the first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.
The Canadian story begins with indigenous peoples' heritage in Canada. As part of the Government of Canada's ongoing and ever-evolving commitment to a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples, we must enact recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership in action. It is a process that is multi-faceted. This why our Prime Minister committed to national indigenous organizations that he will meet with them annually in order to sustain and advance initiatives that continue to grow shared priorities and progress. It is why every piece of legislation that this government advances is crafted with a lens of reconciliation and respect, and it is why, at the moment of bring granted citizenship, we are proposing a revised text of the oath to contain wording that reflects the broad range of rights held by diverse indigenous peoples.
These are difficult times for Canadians and for the entire world. Throughout the global pandemic, the government has focused on supporting indigenous communities, working to control the spread of COVID-19 and keeping everybody safe.
The government will continue to do that as we walk the shared path of reconciliation with indigenous people and remain focused on implementing the commitments made in 2019.
This has not stopped during this pandemic. If anything, it has gotten worse. The government is committed to addressing racism in a way that is informed by experience of racialized communities and the indigenous people. This is hard work, not just for Parliament but for all Canadians. Renewing the relationship with indigenous peoples must be based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership. Our laws and policies must foster co-operation with indigenous peoples and reflect on how we can work to protect indigenous languages, traditions and institutions.
This government continues to advance the belief that Canada's diversity is among its greatest strengths. We are a united country because of, not in spite of, our differences. At the same time, we remain focused on an inclusive society that is bound by a set of shared values. The citizenship oath is much more than a passage of words, it represents a deep appreciation for our open, free, democratic and diverse Canada. We as a government believe strongly that is at the heart of that appreciation and understanding of indigenous peoples, their history and their rights.
The Bill C-8 amendment is intended to contribute to reconciliation with indigenous people.
I want to once again convey the importance that my citizenship ceremony and the oath I recited have had in my life. I was given a answer for my dreams and the way in which I could fully embody becoming Canadian. Today's proposed change in language continues that process for every new Canadian going forward.
Indigenous peoples are at the heart of Canada's history, its identity and, indeed, its future. The legislation would help to continue building trust through stronger, more collaborative and respectful relationships with indigenous peoples across Canada.